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North Island weather events – progress and reflections one year on

by Tina Mitchell, Chief Executive Officer, EQC Toka Tū Ake

The destruction caused by both the Auckland Anniversary Weekend floods and Cyclone Gabrielle was significant. Communities suffered and are still suffering. 

The insurance sector has been working tirelessly to settle people’s insurance claims and have resolved the majority of EQCover claims resulting from these events, despite the complex impacts across multiple regions.   

Resolving insurance claims for land damage following a major event will always take some time. Land cover also has clear limits set out in legislation, and in many cases, settlements will not cover the full costs to repair damage. You can top up the home cover through your private insurance policy, but there is no extra land cover available. 

The EQC scheme enables home insurance to remain affordable in New Zealand, despite our multiple natural hazards, and we have one of the highest levels of home insurance in the world, with 90% of homes covered. 

The scheme at its heart exists to support people back into their homes. Some limited cover for land damage was only added to the scheme following the 1979 Abbotsford landslide in Dunedin, in recognition that the land immediately surrounding the home is critical to getting back home.   

New Zealand is fortunate that EQCover is the only insurance scheme in the world that covers damage to land. But this cover is limited. Put simply, it is intended to cover the land needed to support or access your house, with limits set out in legislation.

We cover the land under and up to 8m around your home and related buildings; the land under your main accessway up to 60m from the house; and some retaining walls, bridges and culverts.

Importantly, we can only provide cover for repair costs up to the value of your insured, damaged land. So, in many cases the maximum pay-outs available under the legislation may only cover a portion of the repair costs.

Image of Tina Mitchell

Tina Mitchell

The combined events of 2023 have produced the highest proportion of land claims for any event in New Zealand’s history.

Land claims, especially for damage from a land slip, can be complex and take time to work through, particularly where there is restricted access to a property, if the land is still moving, or where there are constraints on specialist resources such as geotechnical engineers.  

For this reason, it’s important we all get familiar with the natural hazard risks on our properties so that we can consider ways to protect our land from damage before any event happens and make our own decisions about how to manage any insurance shortfall.  

I encourage all homeowners to review their insurance policies, so they know what they are covered for, and make sure to understand the risks to their land. We cannot control the weather, but there are many steps we can take to protect our families and properties.   

This includes getting engineering advice, as well as looking at our Natural Hazards Portal before buying a new home, monitoring the condition of your slopes and retaining walls, and talking with your neighbours if you have shared access roads or if their properties could jeopardise yours.  

I want New Zealanders to know that I am incredibly proud of the work that Toka Tū Ake EQC staff and insurer partners carry out. Every one of us who works here shares the commitment to helping homeowners to rebuild and recover from a natural hazard event.